In simple terms, an editor is a decision maker. All day long you are making decisions: “Do I use this shot? Or that shot?”.
The answer is not always easy or obvious. That’s why sometimes it takes so long…you need to try out lots of different things before you get the right answer or find a solution.
Even when you are just choosing selects, you are making decisions and answering questions left, right and centre:
Yes? No? Yes? No? Yes? No?
Every single shot you use is a conscious decision. Which is why I make the bold assertation that Editors have an answer for everything. Unfortunately it doesn’t apply to all areas of life. But at least in the realm of your project, you should feel confident that you have an answer as to why you made each edit decision.
This does not mean that you have to be rigid or stubborn or intolerant of any new suggestions. Quite the opposite. But you need to be able to articulate why you used each shot you used, even if only to yourself.
If a Director or Producer asks “Why did you use that take?” you will know why you did it: “The first take he made a mistake and then in the second take he looked into the camera for a bit. Then in the third take he got a few words mixed up but he sounded really genuine”.
Then in this imaginary scenario, if the Director says “I like the camera move on the first take better. Can we use the start and then pick up on another take?” you will be able to answer:
“Yeah sure. We can try that. Maybe we should look at ending on the second take after he stops looking at the camera, as the energy levels are similar. Let’s see if it works”
Even with montage or overlay editing, you still need to know why you chose one shot over another. You might never need to explain it or justify it, but it helps you to become a better editor to be conscious of why you are making the edit choices and decisions that you are making.
After a long day of making countless edit decisions, this is the only illustration I could come up with…